7/29/2015

Best Ever Pulled Pork

You guys - I'm not joking when I say this pulled pork recipe is THE BEST.

Someone shared this recipe on my Facebook news feed, so we tried it one weekend.

We ended up sharing some, freezing some, and eating some.

Win-win-win all around!
Pulled Pork Recipe
Ingredients:

1 (4-7 pound) whole boston butt

[Dry Rub]
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp ground pepper
1 tbsp paprika
½ cup brown sugar

[Brine Solution]
½ cup salt
½ cup brown sugar
2 qts cold water
2 bay leaves
3 tbsp dry rub mix

Instructions
For the Dry Rub:
Mix well and store in an air tight container.

For the Brine Solution:
Add salt to cold water and stir very well until all the salt is dissolved. Add the brown sugar, dry rub, and bay leaves. Stir well to combine.

Pork shoulder preparation:
Rinse the pork shoulder and place in a large container, pour in the brine solution until the shoulder is completely covered. Cover the container and place in the refrigerator for at least 8-hours.

Remove pork shoulder from brine solution. Pat dry with paper towels. Place in roasting pan that is bigger than the shoulder.

Sprinkle dry rub onto the surface of the shoulder and massage so that it adheres to the surface. Coat all sides.

Make sure the fat layer on the shoulder is facing up before cooking.

Cooking:
Place baking pan uncovered in a 225 degree oven on the middle rack. Insert a probe thermometer into the center or thickest part of the shoulder (don't touch the bone if using a bone-in pork shoulder).

Monitor the temperature throughout cooking. Do not remove from the oven until the center of the shoulder reaches 200 degrees.

When the shoulder has reached 200 degrees, shut off the oven and let the roast cool for a couple of hours before removing from the oven. If the bottom of the pan is dry (or crusted with dried spices), cover the pan with foil to retain internal moisture of the meat during the cooling period.

When the temperature drops to 170 degrees or slightly lower, remove from oven.

Pull apart with two forks, it will pull apart very easily.

Source: KevinAndAmanda.com

7/28/2015

She's Six Months Old

Tess Irene Photography
I may very well be in denial that our sweet baby is 6-months old.
Tess Irene Photography
It seems like it was yesterday when we were chosen to be her mom and dad.
Tess Irene Photography
Tess Irene Photography took some stunning photos of Kendra.
Tess Irene Photography
She even snapped a few of big sis!
Tess Irene Photography
((Sigh))

We may have our hands full when these gorgeous girls get older ;)

7/22/2015

Confession: I Was Terrified For Child #2

Remember when we found out about our sweet baby Kendra back in January?
Adoption
Yeh.

Total whirlwind.

What most people don't know, though, is that long before she was born and her birth momma chose us as her family, Chris and I had conversations about pursuing adoption #2.

We were scared terrified.

We worried about affording the adoption process a second time. We wondered if a future match would fail and how we'd be able to handle that type of heartache with another child. We worried about how open a birth family would want to be with a relationship moving forward...

And truth be told, our daughter Olivia's adoption was smooth. It was quick but comfortable. Today, we have an open adoption with her birth family that's healthy and beautiful in so many ways.

We worried our next child(ren) would have harder stories--different circumstances that may be more difficult to navigate as parents.

We were so scared about adopting privately a second time around that we actually planned to completely change things up and become foster parents.

In fact, we had just received fingerprint cards in the mail to start the foster care licensing process 24-hours before we learned about Kendra.

Yep.

We were busy making plans.

All the while, God was laughing at us.

He clearly had different plans for our lil' family (surprise, surprise!)...

Plus, I'm pretty sure He likes seeing us scramble before blessing our socks off, but whatever ;)

But truthfully -- aside from the anxiety we had around a second adoption -- I wondered if my heart would be able to stretch any further...

Would I have enough room in my heart to love another child as much as I love Olivia?

She's the one who made me a mother.

She gave me a new purpose in life...

Would she feel like I loved her less because I had to share my heart with another baby?

Would I be able to share time with them equally?

Would I be spread too thin?

Would I be a good mom?

Hospital Photo
Most of those worries swirling around in my head subsided the second I laid eyes on Kendra.

And I thought my heart was literally going to explode when I watched the girls see each other for the first time.
Two Kids Under Two
Seriously.

They're the best of friends.
Adopting Two Children
And now, six months into this "Mom-of-Two" gig, I can't remember what LIFE was like without both of them in it.

I share all of this to encourage those of you on a similar journey.

It's okay to be worried about how things will work out, if you'll be good enough, or whether you can handle more than what's already on your plate.

But remember, you are doing better than you realize.

And trust me: You are enough.

7/14/2015

Recipe for Snickerdoodle Cookies

Easy Dessert
Not gonna lie, this are pretty fabulous for breakfast ;)

I stumbled across this recipe on Pinterest [find my boards here!], and it was too tempting not to try.

Bonus: These cookies are super easy to make!
Easy Cookies
1 Cup Butter
1 and 1/3 Cup Sugar
1 Egg
2 Teaspoons Vanilla
3 Cups Flour
2 Teaspoons Cream of Tarter
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
2 and 1/2 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Salt

Topping:
1/4 Cup Sugar
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix ingredients for cookie dough until smooth.

Stir cinnamon and sugar for topping.

Roll dough into a ball and coat with topping.

Bake cookies on greased cookie sheet for 10-minutes.

Recipe adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction

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7/13/2015

To The Exhausted New Momma

To the Exhausted New Momma
Hey, Momma.

Yeh. You...

The one who's squinting your eyes on your cell phone reading this during a 4 a.m. feeding.

You know, the one who's changing diapers with your eyes closed and tossing 'em down the Diaper Genie at midnight like it's your J-O-B.

Never mind it kinda is your job...;)

Whether it's your first baby or your fifth, I'm here to tell you this:

You're doing a great job.

Look, I know it's not easy getting into the swing of things when you're so tired you feel like you need toothpicks to hold your eyes open.

I know it's hard to even have the energy or motivation to even shower let alone put on eyeliner.

It's a challenge to do laundry, make lunches, go to work, make daycare drop-offs, run errands, pay the bills, whip somethin' up for dinner, wash dishes, sanitize bottles...

As moms, we sometimes pressure ourselves to keep it all together. To enjoy every single waking moment.

But I'm telling you -- it's okay if you don't.

It's okay if you sit on the couch and cry over a bowl of butter-drenched popcorn wondering if you'll ever get into a routine.

It's okay to opt for a straw over a glass with that unopened bottle of Sauvignon blanc sitting on your kitchen counter. Or if you actually follow through with buying this to keep it classy and still down that bottle out of a glass.

It's okay to pretend you're taking an unusually long amount of time in the bathroom because you just need a minute to compose yourself and b-r-e-a-t-h-e in silence without little hands wrapped around both legs.

It's okay if you feel overwhelmed, like you're not measuring up. Like you're a failure because you're tired and worn out and covered in another human's bodily fluids and you can't remember if you even brushed your own teeth.

But let me remind you something...

You are good enough. You can do this. And even if you don't enjoy every moment -- even if you're so tired you could fall asleep standing up -- or if you're so frustrated and overwhelmed and exhausted that you wanna throw your hands up in the air and say, "You. Child. Take care of yourself. I need a vacation day...."

Know this: You, momma...you're doing a great job.


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7/12/2015

SNEAK PEEK: Top Adoption Photos [That May Make You Cry]

Look at these images:
Adoptive Parents Meet Children
[From upper- left, clockwise: Laura Kellerman Photography, Gus Dizon Photography, Isadora PhotographyChesley Summar Photography]
I'm finishing up a piece for Adoption.com that will bring TEARS TO YOUR EYES because the moment you meet your child -- no matter how s/he enters the world -- is so, so beautiful.

Stay tuned for a closer look at adoptive families as they meet their children for the first time.

I have a feeling these photos may make your heart overflow with happiness.

7/08/2015

Pizza Pasta Casserole

2 lbs Ground Beef
1 Onion (chopped)
2 Jars (28 oz each) Spaghetti Sauce
1 Pkg (16oz) Spiral Pasta (cooked and drained)
4 Cups S
hredded Mozzarella Cheese
8 oz Pepperoni

Cook ground beef and onion. Stir in spaghetti sauce and cooked pasta noodles. 


Transfer into 2 greased 13x9 baking dishes. 

Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. 

Arrange pepperoni over the top. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Surprise a friend with the second casserole, or cover, freeze and save it for later!

To use frozen casserole: Thaw in refrigerator overnight. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until heated through.

7/06/2015

From my Momma’s Heart to Yours...

While we’re all unique and the paths that led us to adopting a child may be different, I believe many of us have similar hearts.

Here's what I want to say to you -- from my adoptive momma’s heart to yours:
Adoption Motherhood Parenthood

7/05/2015

30 Lessons in 30 Years

It's official. I'm 30.

Yep.

But age ain't nothin' but a number, right folks?
30 Years in Birthday Lessons
Seriously, though.. In 30 years, I've learned a lot.

In no particular order, here are 30 lessons I've learned in 30 years:

1. Time flies.

Seriously. The older I get, the faster the years go by.

2. Sleep is a commodity. 

Late nights will not be alcohol-induced. Nope. "Hangovers" consist of babies-up-crying so mommas-up-crying... Eyes burning and all. Sleep when you can.

3. Friends change. 

People will keep in touch with you and make time for you if you're important to them. Others won't. That's okay. Surround yourself with people who bring happiness with them.

4. Take chances.

When faced with a decision, ask yourself, "What's the worst that could happen?" Learn from your failures and successes, and don't be afraid to take risks.

5. Politics matter. 

The older I get, the more I realize I must also care about politics. The future of our children matters, and sometimes this means advocating for policy-changes.

6. Dreams change.

If someone would've told me five years ago I'd be a stay-at-home mom, I probably would've laughed. It's funny how life experiences can influence and reshape your heart.

7. Priorities shift.

From school, to marriage, to work as a TV reporter, to motherhood -- priorities change. Be flexible. Accept different priorities during different seasons in your life.

8. Share your voice. 

Stand up for what you believe in even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone or facing criticism from others.

9. Be confident.

Your life experiences and opinions matter. Don't forget that.

10. Watch what you eat.

Yeh. When you hit your mid-20's that metabolism slows down. We all get one body; take care of it as best you can.

11. Work out.

See #10.

12. Fresh air is good for the soul.

Never underestimate the importance of fresh air and sunshine. Even if it's a short walk around the block over lunch break, fresh air can be an automatic mood-booster.

13. Family matters.

Family is #1. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow with our spouse or parents or children or siblings. Make time for the people you care about before it's too late.

14. Work is important, too.

Find a job you enjoy. Money and insurance are important, but finding a sense of fulfillment in what you do is equally important.

15. Never stop learning.

Pick up a book. Watch a documentary. Grab coffee with a mentor. Sit back and listen. Soak in the experiences of those around you and learn about life through them.

16. Take care of yourself.

The house will always need cleaning. Dishes will always need to be done. Yard work will never be finished. Laundry will always need to be folded. Toys will always be sprawled across the floor. Don't forget to sit and breathe. Whether it's waking up 15-minutes early to chug a cup of coffee in silence, or it's a pedicure or massage or scoop of your favorite ice cream...do something for YOURSELF. You are worthy.

17. Money can't buy happiness. 

It might buy you chocolate and an expensive bottle of wine, but more money wouldn't necessarily make you happier, so quit wishing it would.

18. Stop comparing.

The grass isn't always greener on the 'other side.' And keeping up with the Jones' isn't always a great idea. Quit comparing your life to others and be content with where you are and who you're with.

19. Forgive others.

You know the friend who hurt you terribly? The one who said horrible things behind your back? Or to your face? Or cut ties with you completely? Forgive that individual -- that friend, that family member, that stranger. Even if no apology has been extended, forgive those who have hurt you and move on.

20. Forgive yourself.

It's easy to kick ourselves for saying something we shouldn't have or acting out of line. Own your mistakes, apologize to those you have wronged and forgive yourself.

21. Trust.

Even when life is crazy (Let's say, your husband is transferred for work and you're trying to sell a house with two children under the age of two and you suddenly break your foot...) and then find out you're pregnant, trust that things will work out.

22. Pray.

Over the years I've learned to pray specifically for wisdom and guidance rather than a certain outcome or specific need. God knows what He's doing. Pray. Praise. And pray some more.

23. Be grateful.

Every night before I go to bed, I find something be grateful for. I write it down in a gratitude journal. When I started doing this, I realized I spend my day searching for things to be grateful for, and when you search for things to be grateful for, you can find happiness in even the toughest days.

24. Less is more. 

Sometimes less is more. Get rid of cable, and you'll watch less TV. Get rid of 20-pairs of jeans, and you'll only have your favorite pairs to choose from.

25. Travel.

Travel somewhere new. Whether it's a few days at a spa in the Rocky Mountains or camping in the rolling hills of northeast Iowa, make time to get off the grid.

26. Watch your budget.

It's so easy to justify meals out and entertainment with friends, but be responsible. (Click here to see how we saved $10,000+ with our fixer-upper.)

27. Be loyal.

Stand by your friends and family members. Let them know you care. And treat others how you want to be treated.

28. Plan for the future.

Whether it's planning meals for the week ahead, or putting extra funds away for retirement, plan ahead.

29. Be honest.

Sometimes the truth is painful, but never underestimate the importance of being honest. Your integrity says a lot about your character.

30. Have fun.

Life is far too short. Smile, have fun and find joy in the journey

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